Tax may be due on those shares that you have
As you know, shares are an asset (well they should be) and many provide income in the form of a dividend. This is taxable. Dividends are generally taxed at source at 10% but sadly the tax does not stop there. You have to declare the income so that any additional tax, based upon your other UK income is paid across to HMRC which could be 32.5% or 42.5% depending whether you are a higher rate taxpayer or additional rate (50%) taxpayer. You submit this information via your self assessment return. Anyhow, you may have a few shares that you bought or were “given” many years ago. It is entirely possible that the share is in a company that no longer has the same name. You may have found some old certificates in a dusty old box and assumed that they were worthless.
Checking if “old shares” still exist
It is entirely possible that they are worthless. However it is definitely worth checking first. Despite the advent of technology, tracing shares is a little tricky. Shares listed on the London Stock Exchange are invariably held by one of three registrars. These are Equiniti, Capita and Computershare. If you click on their name it will take you to their website. You can then find out if they look after the company you hold shares in. Alternatively do a search for the original company or check with the LSE, who may be able to provide some assistance (depending on the age of the shares).
Think carefully – CGT may apply
If you decide that the few shares you hold are more hassle than they are worth, please remember that as an asset, they are subject to capital gains tax. In essence you need to know the price you paid for them and the price you sell them for, the difference (the gain or loss) may be taxable. You have a personal capital gains allowance (CGT) which in 2012/13 is £10,600 and would need to be used by 5th April 2013. This allowance means that you can realise gains of £10,600 and pay no tax. The vast majority of people in Britain rarely use their CGT allowance, yet it is highly valuable. The maths is complicated if you have used dividend income to buy more shares automatically, as you will have a series of purchase prices and different “chunks” of shares. You are now in Accountancy dreamland.
There are other options for your shares besides simply selling them, but you should seek personal advice about this as it will depend on the sums involved, your appetite for risk and your requirements for income and capital.